Saturday, April 28, 2007

Week 9: Change Begets Anxiety

I have a few dozen adorable smiling pictures that I could have posted today, but for some reason, this one felt more appropriate. It's been a big week for Daniel, and change usually doesn't happen without some degree of anxiety.

Big event #1: Daniel started daycare on Tuesday, and it was anything but a smooth start. I think what it came down to was conflicting parenting styles between us and the staff, and a lack of clear communication. I suppose the latter is to blame for the vast majority of problems in the world.

We couldn't have asked for a better staff for his room - they are truly sweet women who care a great deal for babies (and have done so their whole lives). However, they are of the generation where you rock babies to sleep and pick them up every time they whimper even a little bit. I'm certainly not bashing other parenting methods, but we have chosen something different for Daniel. I left a page of notes for them, detailing his typical schedule (and asking them to adhere at least loosely to it), yet every time I went over to feed him, he was screaming his head off, having not been led through any of his schedule.

Not wanting to insult their expertise, I wrote it off as the stress any young baby experiences in a new environment, and didn't say anything to the staff. (And on a side note... I had NO idea how much it would bother me to smell "another woman" on my Daniel... it was awful. I cried and cried and then "washed Ms. Gloria right out of his hair"!)

The next day was the same - if not worse. Daniel learned new ways to cry - I had never heard some of those noises I heard that day. I even cried while giving him his bottle, feeling like I had put him in a bad situation, and that he'd never adjust.

We decided to do something about it on the third day, and when we dropped him off, we approached it from the "Here's what works for us at home" direction. We showed them the swaddle technique again, went over the "put him down sleepy but awake" concept, asked that they not rock him to sleep, etc.. The teachers were very receptive, and he actually had a much better day, even getting in a few naps at the right times.

The lesson there is that we just have to learn to be firm on how Daniel is handled. We know him better than anyone, and now is the best time to start practicing the "Because I'm the Mom, That's Why" approach :)

Big event #2: This week he had his first big round of vaccines - and along with it, his first big fever. Let me just say that if watching your child get four vigorous shots in the thigh wasn't difficult enough, WE had to hold him down. Torture. What really got to me was those little drops of blood running down his tiny little legs. Throughout the rest of the day, he did ok at home with Fernando ... a little sleepier with the tylenol, and a little fussier - but not much at all. We gave him a warm bath at night - he always loves those. The next day he got a hefty fever (103) but with tylenol, it was gone by the end of the day.

Big event #3: Daniel officially slept through the whole night without waking up - about 8.5 hours - which is pretty darn good for a nine week old :) We've been using some Babywise guidelines to help get him to this point - and I think they made the difference. We seem to be on a roll - four nights in a row, and counting. The first night, Fernando and I didn't get any sleep - we kept waking up, worrying why we hadn't heard from him (and occasionally tip toeing in to make sure he was still breathing).

I think what helped him get to this point was an increase in food - the pediatrician told us this week to nearly double what we've been feeding him - from 4 oz. every 3 hours, to 6-8 oz. every 3-4 hours. And as soon as he had 6 oz. in his tummy, he slept nearly 9 hours. We're up to 7 oz. per feeding - and he takes all of it, every time.

Anyway. Big week for all of us - lots of new events, along with Daniel's ever mounting energy, personality, and smiles. He's more fun every day, and as long as he adjusts to daycare soon, I think that's one trend that will continue.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Week 8: Before I Forget

Daniel's day: 1) Sleep. 2) Eat. 3) Repeat. That's right - it's Daniel's first big growth spurt! Starting this last Monday, April 16th, Daniel has been extremely sleepy and hungry. We got worried at first, until we realized that being sleepy and hungry are the classic symptoms of a growth spurt. He's still active during play time, just not for as long as before.

Next week he starts daycare - and while I'm extremely nervous about the whole experience, the whole situation couldn't be better for two working parents: the preschool is right behind our offices, we get to walk over and feed him every few hours, we can monitor his room online, and the staff is truly wonderful.

I have been feeling pretty nostalgic about these past two months - for all the ups and downs, they seem to have gone by in an instant. So before I move on to the next era in Daniel's life, here are some of the seemingly mundane details of every day life with Daniel that I never want to forget...

- How he grabs his hair in the back to comfort himself
- How he squeezes my pinkie when he's taking a bottle
- How he gets really excited when he sees me and starts "exercising" by pumping his little arms and legs
- His perfect little cry face - all wrinkly and adorable
- How he's starting to blow bubbles of spit on his lips
- How he peed in his eye (twice) and made himself cry
- How sometimes he spits up and keeps it in his mouth a while (eww!)
- How he's learning to keep the pacifier in his mouth (by us tugging it away)
- How he's learning to make noises - same noise about 5 or 6 times in a row
- How he grabs my hair when he's on my shoulder - doesn't pull it, but uses it as security
- How he cries in "waves" when putting himself to sleep
- How much he loves the purple bouncy chair, and watching us from it
- How he stretches in the shape of an "S"
- How sometimes his cries are decidedly "not committed"
- How his eyes open so wide as he pulls his chin back
- How he looks like a pit bull when he wakes up hungry with dried formula on his mouth
- His "3 in 1" changing table disasters (multiple squirts of pee, dairy queen style poo, AND spit-up)
- How he smiles just before drifting off to sleep
- How he manages to fit his whole fist in his mouth
- How he flexes his little toes while drinking his bottle

There are so many more, but I know that this list will make me smile in a few years when Daniel seems so grown up. (Honestly, it will probably give me baby fever again...but THAT is something for another time...another place...another blog...)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Week 8: Accustomed To His Face

Today was my first official day of work since having Daniel. I'm a product of the multi-tasking generation ... in college, a typical semester included taking 20+ credits, working two part-time jobs, volunteering in a few places, and still having a social life. I not only managed to stay sane, I actually enjoyed the chaos. So I assumed that being a working mom wouldn't be a big deal.

Part of being a good multi-tasker is the ability to compartmentalize pieces of your life to deal with them on an "as needed" basis. But I found out today that it's simply not possible to place my role as a mom in one of my handy little compartments. Or more to the point, it's not possible to set aside that compartment to focus on other things.

Work was fine, actually. I enjoyed being back, and seeing people I have missed over the past 8 weeks. But my heart ached for Daniel all day. I surprised myself by choking up a little when Fernando and Daniel left for the morning walk that I usually take Daniel on. And again when I came home and Daniel smiled at me ... something he apparently hadn't done all day.

I had a hard time focusing on one thing for more than an hour and a half ... and then I realized it was because my body had settled into the rhythm of Daniel's schedule, which was made up of hour and a half intervals. I kept noticing the time, and wondering what he was doing just then.

I have heard it said before that having a baby is like wearing your heart outside of your body... and it felt true today. And my heart was miles away from my body all day long.

If you've seen "My Fair Lady", you'll recall a song at the end of the show where Professor Higgins realizes that he's in love with Eliza. He hadn't understood the depth of his affection until she suddenly wasn't there - and somehow, while a completely different situation, these lyrics describe why today was so hard for me.

I've grown accustomed to her face
She almost makes the day begin
I've grown accustomed to the tune she whistles night and noon
Her smiles, her frowns, her ups and downs
Are second nature to me now
Like breathing out and breathing in
I was serenely independent and content before we met
Surely I could always be that way again and yet
I've grown accustomed to her looks, accustomed to her voice
Accustomed to her face

I knew I loved Daniel, I just don't think I realized how much until today.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Week 7: Family Flood

My sister and I often talk about what an incredible upbringing we had - we were always safe, warm, fed, loved, and truthfully, spoiled! But in the good way (we'd like to think). And all of our fondest childhood memories are the direct result of our amazing family - a loving support system that knew how to laugh, relax, survive tough times, work hard, and play together.

This week, Fernando, Daniel & I had the rare privilege of spending a few days with a lot of my family at once - something that doesn't happen often, since we are a 21st century "long distance family". My parents, along with my 3 remaining grandparents, passed through Phoenix on the way back to their home in Texas. They had been in California, helping my Mom's parents pack up and move to Texas, to be close to everyone else.

All that to say, for two solid days, Daniel was hugged, squeezed, kissed, passed around, spoiled, tickled, sung to, rocked, and adored by two grandparents and three great grandparents. I don't know a lot of little kids who get that honor. We took plenty of pictures, so that when he's older, he'll get to see this incredibly special experience for himself.

Watching my family interact with Daniel brought out sides of them that recalled memories of my own childhood. My grandpa's quiet but tender gaze... my gramma's joyful smile and constant exuberance... my mema's quiet wisdom... my mom's loving playfulness... my dad's overflowing pride in his grandson.

I was telling my Mom the other day that I understand her better now that I have Daniel. It's hard to explain exactly what changed, but holding my own baby in my arms, loving him so much that I could cry... and knowing that not so long ago it was HER holding me and loving me the same way... I now understand a part of her that I simply could not have known before. I suppose it's only natural that becoming a mother makes the bond with your own mom stronger. She stayed at our house for two weeks after Daniel was born - and I don't know if I could have survived without her. Just like I know I'll never survive this parenting thing if she isn't a phone call away for all the little questions and joys that arise.

It's not just my Mom that I'm seeing in a new light - it's the rest of the family too - just in different ways. I appreciate them more - love them more - and now I'm more determined than ever to give Daniel the kind of childhood I had. One where he never has to experience a lack of love or support.

Of course I worry that I won't measure up - that I won't have all the answers (my Dad knows absolutely everything!), or I won't have my Mom's magic comforting touch. But I'm determined to learn every trick of the trade they're willing to pass along.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Week 6: Momma's Shoulder

There is nothing like the feeling of being needed by someone or something. I think it's why so many of us have pets - we love them and take care of them, but they give us emotional gratification in return - they need us!

This week it really sank in how much Daniel needs me. (I'm not comparing him to a cat or dog - but having pets was my only experience with "parenting" before.) I know he needs me to feed him and change him and keep him safe. But the emotional kind of "needing" wasn't as apparent until now.

He has always preferred to be carried over one shoulder - even from the week he was born. It lets him hold his head and shoulders up and investigate his new world from a safe look-out.

But this week he became a "Momma's Shoulder Addict". There were times when he wouldn't stop crying (for no apparent reason) until I put him on my shoulder. There were times when he would wake up crying in a nap, and wouldn't go back to sleep until he was on my shoulder. More than once I let him finish his nap in my arms. Not a great habit to get into, I know, but I just couldn't resist the feeling of being needed. And I think if he had his way, he'd live on that shoulder.

Daddy can do the shoulder trick too - but it doesn't always work as well. There's just something about Momma's Shoulder.

I know Daniel will (all too quickly) grow out of this phase, and I'm already sad for that day. So while we're still in it, I think I'll indulge my little shoulder addict - and in doing so, indulge myself as well.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Week 6: Chit-Chat & Swaddling

Week 6 has been a huge week for all of us - lots of new skills mastered (by Daniel) and new lessons learned (by Daniel's parents!).

Those amazing smiles of his have gotten even more consistent - now we can make him smile (and sometimes laugh) by rolling our eyes around, making funny noises, tickling his cheeks and collar bone, poking his nose, and contorting our faces into all kinds of odd configurations. We really are a sight - two grown adults acting like circus clowns in the hopes of extracting one sweet little baby smile. I sure wish I knew what Daniel was thinking when he watched the two of us!

As much as we love those smiles, they have started showing up at some pretty inconvenient times... like during his middle of the night feeding. And believe me - it is hard to put him down when he's grinning at you! A few nights ago, my husband came to bed at 4:00 a.m. after giving Daniel a bottle and said to me, "Honey, I'm so tired... Daniel will NOT go to sleep... for 15 minutes non-stop he's been smiling at me from the crib!" I know, I know... there are much worse problems to have. But I definitely don't want to encourage a routine 4:00 a.m. playtime!

His sweet little faces are now accompanied by attempted conversations on his part - lots of semi-articulated noises showed up this week. Before, it was kind of the same ole grunt sound... now he's trying out all kinds of sounds, and will participate in a conversation of sorts, where he makes a noise, then I make one, then he does, and so on.

I know crawling is still quite a ways off, but sometimes I get nervous at how determined Daniel is to master it! During tummy time, he has a newfound energy, and spends quite a bit of time doing what I can only describe as "fake crawling" - all the necessary components are there, he just doesn't go anywhere! With enough effort, he can propel himself forward an inch or two. I'm hoping it stays that way for a while - I am NOT ready to chase him all over the house!

Another fun thing I learned this week: I can wear Daniel in the Bjorn and vaccum the whole house. Daniel seemed to thoroughly enjoy it, but not as much as my husband, who about died laughing when he came home in the middle of this experiment to a barefoot wife in boxers and a tee-shirt with a baby strapped to her chest.

We also celebrated Daniel's first Easter - the church where we work held Easter service at the University of Phoenix Stadium (home of the Arizona Cardinals and Superbowl 2008!) so I took Daniel in the stroller. He was so well-behaved... took a bottle in a very loud chaotic environment, and didn't seem bothered in the least. He didn't even cry during the surprise fireworks - he barely woke up!

The last lesson learned this week was a biggie: swaddling. I only wish I had discovered this about 6 weeks ago! Someone recommended the book "Happiest Baby on the Block" and I picked up a copy. I didn't really read it until Daniel started waking up in the middle of every nap last week. We finally sat in his nursery to observe the problem - he would startle in his sleep, then flail his arms, and smack himself in the face! This triggered his hunger reflex (even when he wasn't hungry) and he'd start yelling his head off.

We started swaddling with a big square receiving blanket, like the book suggests, but Daniel is so big and strong that we had to wrap another folded blanket around his arms straight-jacket style. (My husband couldn't resist commenting that wrapped like this, our son looked like a doobie). I did a little research online and read raving reviews of "the Miracle Blanket" for swaddling escape artist babies.

I ordered one (and was so excited that I paid too much for 2-day shipping :) but after just one use, we couldn't be happier with it. Daniel is comfortable and doesn't get overheated, and doesn't startle himself out of a nap anymore. We only use it for sleeping, and he gets plenty of exercise during his awake times.

Anyway. Highly recommended for all babies - the blanket and the book - I loved the concepts presented by the pediatrician who wrote the book. They make a lot of sense - and in Daniel's case, are completely true. Everything about him has improved since I read the book - his moods, his sleeping habits, his fussy times. And I truly think that it's because I understand him better now - and can meet his needs more efficiently.